Monsieur Perroquet's Ascent to a
By Richard Craven
Unheeding the Yellowhammers.
A most bleary dawn for May, the filthy welkin lowering ominously over the city’s roofscape. Had they been more than minimally alert, the flâneurs at that ungodly hour straggling homewards up the Gloucester Road would have had their vigilance rewarded by a very peculiar manifestation. Not to put too fine a point on things, there was to be seen, fastidiously keeping within the margins of the cycle lane there depeynted, a large grey parrot astride a tiny scooter. Perched behind this creature was a most comely yellow budgerigar. And what might you expect to see, following in the wake of this slightly ill-assorted couple, being towed on a two-wheeled and comparably diminutive trailer, and lying in state upon a bed of cotton wool and what must I think have been pencil shavings, but a mignon little egg?
To our notional observer the progress of this bizarre congeries would have appeared agonisingly slow. In his defence, the navigating bird must need negotiate the multitude of bumps and and holes and grates and turds and banana skins, figurative and eke literal, which bestrewed the portion of thoroughfare sequestered for his use. His companion saluted each of these impediments by flapping her wings, such efforts to maintain her own stability evidently coming at the expense of that of the contraption on which she perched. At the risk of unduly anthropomorphising the psittaciform, I venture to suggest that her behaviour vexed her conductor, for whenever thus disturbed he bestowed upon that dilapidated corner of creation the coarsest and most vulgar epithets. For her part, the budgerigar at intervals favoured us with, besides a medley of random and inchoate squarks, precisely two intelligible imprecations of her own - “shut up!” and “knickers!” - the incessant repetitions of which betrayed a poverty of vocabulary, and indeed a mindlessness, which can have done very little to leaven the biliousness of her consort.
With the passing of the hours, there commenced, hesitant and desultory at first then by degrees intensifying, an oily rain. A hyperborean gale intermittently whipped up the cardboard and polystyrene fragments maculating in the gutters, and buffeted the plumed personages in their hindquarters. It was a harsh affair, that wind, which did not fill their sails, withal it ruffled their feathers, inasmuch as their progress continued as jarring and as vexed as ever - indeed, it seemed to the universal speculum much as if those gaudy apparitions congealed against that dun occluded landscape of tarmac and commercial premises and discarded stuffs.
Eventually, for all that things had seemed rutted in the traces of a kind of eternal monoevent, that state of being in which they appeared enmired became a becoming. One or two and then several more lorries ground along the avenue, the harbingers of the morning’s metal tide. The people borne upon this tsunami, drivers of lorries, bus-borne somnambulists, solitary motorists, Pakistanis driving cabs, gimperous cyclists, all seemed bent on their several occupations, oblivious of the feathered emissaries of paradise. These latter followed the piste, thereby trundled haltingly down a shallow decline, at the bottom of which they were found to be passing through a leafier and more forgiving purlieu, a place where cafes extended onto veritable prairies of pavement, and shops sold to hipsters the organic sundries and artisanal fripperies which they professed to find indispensable. Then there was a twist in the road, and overhead a railway arch, under which the avian menagerie passed, as though to signify the sneering triumph over them of some unseen but no doubt sneering miles gloriosus. Beyond this lay a vista of some two hundred yards of non-description, ceding at the traffic lights to the desolations of Stokes Croft.